In a series of articles we are going to look back over 40 extraordinary years of Riviera evolution.
In this, the first, we introduce you to the foundation of Riviera and look at the early years to 1985 during which the company developed seven models, from 30 to 52 feet.
Riviera began with no fanfare, no official opening, but with five boat builders working diligently in a small factory in Sydney’s leafy northern beaches suburb of Terrey Hills. They were building the plugs for a hull, deck and superstructure that would soon become the very first Riviera Open Flybridge, the 38 Mark 1.
In fact, when they began work, the company name had not even been selected.
As they worked, probably they listened to Split Enz’ number one hit “I Got You” or Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” on a ghetto blaster radio.
1980 was an important year in many more ways. John Lennon was murdered, Bob Hawke was elected to Federal parliament and Mount St Helens in the United States erupted, killing 57 people and triggered the largest landslide in recorded history. Shares in the fledgling Apple computer company first traded on the US stock market.
Within a year the new boat was complete. She was carefully trailered some 12 kilometres along a hilly Mona Vale Road and then along the narrow and windy Pittwater Road to a boat ramp at Bayview on the southern shore of Pittwater.
She offered proud owners an accommodation deck with two cabins and a fully enclosed bathroom, a U-shape galley and saloon with U-shape dinette and helm stations on the flybridge and in the saloon.
Power options were plentiful – twin Volvo, GM, J&T, Fiat Iveco or Cummins diesel engines ranging in power output from 250 to 370 hp.
Riviera was afloat. The year was 1981 and soon the magazine reviews were talking of a dry ride and an internal fitout that was ahead of the competition.
The new company soon moved its production facility to Queensland’s Gold Coast where a new purpose-built facility was completed at Labrador. Building began in earnest. In that first year of production, five boat builders completed eight boats.
A total of 36 boating enthusiasts purchased Riviera’s 38 Mark 1 model over the next six years before she was superseded by the Riviera 38 Mark 2.
No sooner were the first Rivieras in the hands of proud owners than work began on the next model, the Riviera 30, a boat developed to fill an important and highly competitive niche. With twin V-berth accommodation and an enclosed bathroom, the Riviera 30 was an instant success, with 23 in the hands of happy owners in her first year, 1982. The company built and sold a total of 66 Riviera 30s over just four years.
Riviera achieved a major milestone in 1983. The company moved into the export market, sending its first motor yacht to the United States. The model line-up also expanded by another two models in that year with the launch of the 44 and 34 Mark 1. The 34 proved to be as popular as the 30 as the company built 62 of this model over just three years, including 38 in 1984 alone!
And 1983 was a special year in history for another reason. GPS navigation became available for civilian use in that year. The satellite navigation system was invented in the 1970s and developed by the US military and it was a terrible airline tragedy that caused the release of the technology to the public.
The following year, Riviera launched the 32, a slightly larger version of the very popular 30. It remained in production for only two years during which 23 boats were built and sold.
That year, 1984, was special to Riviera for another reason. The company launched its 100th motor yacht as production expanded rapidly.
That expansion continued in 1985 with a move toward larger boats and the first export boat was shipped to Europe.
The 46 Passagemaker took its name from a special feature – wide and deep walk-around side decks with stainless steel handrails that swept from the bow back to steps leading forward from the cockpit. Crew and guests could move forward to the vast foredeck in great safety. The company built 41 Passagemakers and the model stayed in production over nine years, one of the longest production periods for any Riviera.
The 52 was also launched in 1985, the first Riviera to offer three-cabin accommodation. This model also introduced the new aesthetic of an aft-raked windscreen on the flybridge.
As Riviera’s first five years drew to a close, the rapidly growing company could look back on the launch of seven models, more than 200 motor yachts built, a growing export business both in the United States and Europe and the prospect of more new models.
The songs that the Riviera boat builders were listening to in that year whilst busy laminating, assembling joinery, welding rails and installing engines and generators reflected one of the greatest musical events ever – Live Aid. With it came the anthem “We Are The World”. In the US, some lucky people were listening to this on the new CD technology that had just been introduced to the market.
For the Riviera team, life could not be better. But there were dark clouds on the horizon.